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Why Do People Leave Jamaica?

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family_travelling_overseas_from_jamaica_aug_2018Why Do People Leave Jamaica?

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Jamaica has been seeing high migration rates since as early as the 1970s. As a matter of fact, the current rate is quite low compared to the rates back then, but regardless of the figures, migration is still an issue for us.

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Jamaicaโ€™s Current Migration Rate

Jamaica's current net migration rate in 2022 is -3.808 per 1000 people, a decrease of 0.42% from 2021. In 2021, Jamaica's net migration rate was -3.824 per 1000 people, a 0.44% decrease from 2020. In 2020, Jamaica's net migration rate was -3.841 per 1000 people, a 0.41% decrease from 2019.

In recent comments on the subject of migration, Prime Minister Andrew Holness claimed that the large number of middle-class migrants has had a negative impact on the nation.

He added that young people in Jamaica are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the lack of employment possibilities and decent accommodation and are considering immigrating to wealthy nations.

According to several stakeholders in the education sector, teachers, for instance, are reportedly fleeing the island for the precise reasons the prime minister has indicated.

The term "brain drain" refers to a significant exodus or migration of people. A nation's internal unrest, the existence of lucrative career opportunities abroad, or a desire to move to a country with a higher standard of living are all factors that can contribute to a brain drain.

On the human flight and brain drain index's 2022 edition, Jamaica came in second place out of 177 nations. The ranking, which evaluates "the economic impact of human displacement (for economic or political reasons) and the ramifications this may have on a country's growth," was created.

According to the website for Global Economy, human relocation increases as the index rises. Samoa tops the list with a perfect score of 10, while Jamaica has a human flight and brain drain index score of 9.1.

Many young Jamaicans are prepared to leave their nation in search of better employment and educational prospects. They would actually travel from Jamaica to any place but Afghanistan. A 2016 study conducted by Respect Jamaica and the local UNICEF office found that 81% of Jamaican youngsters between the ages of 14 and 40 would leave the country right away if they could.

Seventy-five percent of those who left claimed they did so because of better chances elsewhere. 83% of those aged 20 to 25 and 81% aged 26 to 40 would opt to leave the island, respectively.

They are considering leaving Jamaica because of the country's poor economic conditions, the violence and crime that interfere with their everyday lives, and the high unemployment rate. The main justifications given by young people for wanting to emigrate were educational chances and career prospects.

Two of the primary reasons for migration in Jamaica are unemployment and lack of opportunities in Jamaica.


In January 2022, Jamaica's unemployment rate reached a new low of 6.2%. This is 0.9 percentage points lower than the number observed in October 2021, according to the Labour Force Survey conducted for the month by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN). Overall, this may seem good, but these two things may change your viewpoint significantly.

With effect from April 1, 2022, Jamaica's minimum salaries have changed. The following minimum wages are raised: From JMD 7,000 to JMD 9,000 per week for all employees, excluding security guards; and from JMD 9,700.00 to JMD 10,500.00 per week for private security guards. This is roughly USD 58.99 and USD 68.82. These salaries can not even provide an individual with their bare minimum necessities for day-to-day living.

The University of the West Indies, one of the major universities on the island, awards undergraduate and graduate degrees to just under 6,000 students each year.

According to the Placement Unit, 60% of undergraduate students reported having a job as of the 2020 results of its annual tracer study, which gathers data on a sample of graduates. So it is no surprise that people are leaving for better opportunities.

Crime and Violence

With 49.4 killings per 100,000 people in 2021, Jamaica was ranked as one of the most dangerous nations in the Caribbean and had the highest homicide rate in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Up until October 1, 2022, 1,171 persons were murdered in Jamaica, according to the most recent police crime figures. Compared to the same period the previous year, there have been 85 more homicides or an 8% rise.

These murders are usually in concentrated areas and rarely ever affect regular civilians who live outside of these areas. For those who live in inner cities however, the need to migrant is most times fueled by the effects of crime. Even for persons who do not live in or need to travel through these areas, the fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time is enough to influence a persons decision to leave.

The effects of crime in these areas also makes it difficult for investors to feel confident in projects built in or near these areas which again leads to a lack of opportunity for individuals. 

Many Jamaicans do not feel safe in their country and according to these statistics they are not.

These are the issues faced by the people living in Jamaica. It goes without saying that Jamaica can be a slice of paradise, hence the reason tourists from all over the world flock to the island each year, many of them returning yearly or even more frequently.

These issues do not have much of an impact on tourists and other visitors but for those living here, especially the less unfortunate, these are the issues that prompt them to seek a better life elsewhere.

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References & Sources For Why Do People Leave Jamaica?

  1. Collinder, A. (2022) Grads in Limbo, Jamaica Observer. Jamaica Observer. Available at: (Accessed: November 16, 2022).
  2. Crime and violence threatening growth and prosperity โ€“ Chang (2022) News | Jamaica Gleaner. Available at: (Accessed: November 16, 2022).
  3. Jamaica Net Migration Rate 1950-2022 (no date) MacroTrends. Available at: (Accessed: November 16, 2022).
  4. McIntosh, D. (no date) Unemployment down, Jamaica Information Service. Available at: (Accessed: November 16, 2022).
  5. Minimum wage increased in Jamaica - march 17, 2022 (no date) WageIndicator Foundation. Available at: November 16, 2022).
  6. Richards, A. (2022) Jamaica ranks second on human Flight and brain drain index: Loop Jamaica, Loop News. Loop News. Available at: (Accessed: November 16, 2022).
  7. Writer, S. (2016) Over 80 percent of young Jamaicans want to leave the Island, Available at: (Accessed: November 16, 2022).
  8. Young, J. (2022) Brain drain: Definition, causes, effects, and examples, Investopedia. Investopedia. Available at: (Accessed: November 16, 2022).

Why Do People Leave Jamaica? | Written: November 16, 2022

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